Climate chaos still avoidable if governments act immediately

8th October 2018

Report says limiting temperature rise requires enormous and immediate transformation in human activity

  • World governments are not on track to avoid global warming of more than 1.5°C a key UN paper will find; the amount of carbon we can emit and still hope to meet Paris goal of 1.5°C is very small
  • Delaying emissions reductions only increases cost to people and nature

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report released today (October 8) is a damning assessment of weak national efforts to contain climate chaos. The amount of carbon we can emit and not exceed a 1.5°C increase in the world’s temperature since the industrial revolution is tiny, and immediate cuts to emissions are required.

Rachel Kennerley, climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said:

“Just like ignoring credit card statements so that repayments only become sharper and steeper, this report shows that weak responses will make it harder in the long-run. Right now it’s difficult, but not impossible, to contain climate chaos but the window of opportunity will close for good the longer we delay.

“It’s hard to be blunter than saying there won’t be coral reefs left if governments can’t contain warming. It means a massive loss of fish that people rely on for food, and the whole ecosystem unravels costing livelihoods and lives. That is the kind of reality we must face if governments don’t take notice of this report.”

Friends of the Earth argues there are still ways to avoid climate chaos, but only if governments act now, and with ambitious determination.

The IPCC is set to show that if temperature increases remain below 1.5°C, fewer people will suffer and die, this is already happening at a single degree of warming. The consequences of a 2°C rise will be more severe and risks being irreversible.

The report should demonstrate that if we miss 1.5°C and breach 2°C instead, the number of people who could suffer water scarcity will double.

Further, the risks of extreme weather events like the severe droughts and forest fires seen this summer, food shortages, heat-related illness and death, and biodiversity and ecosystems damage, are significantly increased. However, if governments meet the challenge, the displacement of up to 10 million people due to sea level rises could be entirely avoided.

It remains to be seen how the international community will react to the IPCC’s findings, but it is clear the pressure, risks, and costs associated with missing the 1.5°C threshold will only increase to the detriment, and even death, of more people.

With a fast, transformative phaseout of dirty energy and green-house gas emissions governments can avoid breaching1.5°C degrees. A good start is to ditch fossil fuels as soon as possible and roll-out real solutions like clean energy and reforestation, insulation and clean public transport provision. Investing in renewables is clearly part of the immediate solution, even though the UK government stalls even at that easy step. In tandem they should legislate to cease damaging activities that contributes to catastrophic climate change, like fracking.

The UK government has said that it will instruct the Committee on Climate Change to test how feasible it would be for the UK to adopt a net zero emissions target in the wake of this paper.

Rachel Kennerley concluded:

“Political will can get us out of this and the UK government can choose whether to heed this report’s findings. Currently, they’re choosing to ignore the full weight of scientific consensus and are directly funding climate chaos by supporting fracking and other dirty industries.”